Wednesday, July 20, 2011


If you want to explore parts of a country that you'd usually miss, there's nothing to beat chasing up architecture. It certainly works in New Zealand where a pilgrimage to Rongopai in Gisborne, for example, gives you an extraordinary experience and gets you into one of the most fascinating parts of the country. 

Over the years we have been drawn into suburbs (Tadao Ando’s Church of Light in Osaka and Erich Mendelsohn’s Einstein Tower outside Berlin), up into mountains (Peter Zumthor’s Kapelle Sogn Benedetg in Sumvitg) and right off the beaten trail (Louis Kahn’s Jatiya Shangshad Bhaban, Bangladesh’s General Assembly Building in Dhaka and Le Corbusier's urban vision for Chandigarh in India. 

Easier to get to is one of modernism’s greatest architectural triumphs, the Villa Savoye. A mere 30 minute train ride out of Paris (plus a short bus ride), the Villa still sits in beautiful grounds above the town of Poissy as it did when it was completed in 1931. Elegant and white it promises function and style in a demonstration of Le Corbusier's aesthetic manifesto: drive to the door in your automobile, wash off the grime of the road in the basin located in the hall, relax on the expansive roof gardens and at the end of the day sink into a coffin-like, tile-lined blue bath in the master bedroom. 

In fact the family that commissioned the house seldom did any of these things. The house proved damp and cold, leaks were endemic and Le Corbusier was less that excited about addressing any of the material and structural problems. In spite of all these tribulations the family's name lives on forever thanks to its association with a 20th century masterpiece.
Images: The Villa Savoye